Quebec’s premier defiant ahead of confidence vote

* Quebec government set to survive confidence vote

* Premier says separatists would cause referendum crisis

* Premier dismisses call for probe into alleged corruption

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Nov 24 (BestGrowthStock) – Quebec Premier Jean Charest
defiantly stared down opposition legislators on Wednesday just
hours before a parliamentary confidence vote put forward by
separatists who want independence for the giant Canadian
province.

Charest’s Liberals, who have been in power since 2003, were
expected to narrowly survive the vote. Polls show that the
separatist Parti Quebecois would most likely win a Quebec
provincial election if one were held now.

Charest, under enormous pressure to launch a probe into
allegations of corruption in the construction industry, urged
the National Assembly to wait for the results of a police
inquiry into the matter.

He also warned legislators that the Parti Quebecois would
plunge the province into crisis by quickly pushing for another
referendum on independence.

Charest’s popularity has fallen steadily amid lurid media
stories about the construction industry, including collusion in
fixing contracts and supposed Mafia involvement.

“Launching a commission without knowing the facts, or
having proof, is useless,” said Charest, adding that such a
probe would take years and merely produce a report.

“We’d see a string of people who — guaranteed they would
have immunity — could say whatever they wanted … everyone is
protected at a commission of inquiry. No one is protected
during a police inquiry,” he thundered.

An online petition demanding Charest step down has
attracted more than 233,000 signatures since it was set up on
Nov 15. Polls show most Quebecers disapprove of the premier.

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, saying people in the
province were disgusted by dirty tricks and backroom secrets,
urged Liberal members of the National Assembly to help bring
down the government.

“This is above all a vote of conscience. Will Liberal
legislators finally put the interests of the public (and) the
protection of the common good above the partisan interests of
the Liberal Party?” she said.

The Liberals have 65 of the National Assembly’s 125 seats
and if all those legislators back Charest, he will survive.

Previous PQ governments held province-wide votes on
independence in 1980 and 1995. Both failed, although the 1995
referendum was extremely close and caused enormous political
trauma across the country.

Marois has been vague about the timing of another
referendum if her party regained power.

“Quebecers know the priority of the Parti Quebecois leader
and her legislators is sovereignty … and to get there (she)
wants to plunge Quebec into a referendum crisis as quickly as
possible,” Charest said.

Earlier this year Charest set up a commission to probe
allegations by former Liberal Justice Minister Marc Bellemare
that the premier had told him to give judgeships to allies of
major fund-raisers. Charest denied the charge.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)

Quebec’s premier defiant ahead of confidence vote